When it comes to the definition of what meditation is, we have probably encountered several viewpoints about it. It is said that meditation as a practice came from India, and was mentioned in ancient Vedic texts, which are some of the oldest religious and cultural texts in the world. In that tradition, meditation is defined as a practice through which someone can reach a union with divinity, similarly to the original meaning of the word “yoga”. So from that perspective, rather than just being a practice that as a sole purpose has the goal to silence the mind and bring inner peace, meditation has a deeper, spiritual connotation, achieved with exercises that involve being in a sit down posture.
Sometimes we can hear statements such as “You don’t finish your meditation when your practice is finished; you take it with you to daily life”. These statements refer to taking to daily life the benefits that a meditation practice would bring, such as clarity of mind and emotions and ability to be detached and in control of those psychological components of our psyche.
Today, the term meditation is more broad, and so we can see it being used for a lot of different spiritual and secular concentration exercises. However, if we go back to its original meaning, which is the connection with something higher than ourselves, we might not be wrong by saying that such states could be achieved not only by sitting with eyes closed, but also in various environments (particularly in nature) while walking and/ or observing within and without.
I meet many people who have some interest in improving their life through spiritual exercises, but are discouraged because they think the only way to go about it is through a sit-down meditation practice, which they find themselves unable to do. It is a problem that many people face – they simply cannot imagine themselves focusing with their eyes closed on one single thing, for any prolonged length of time. Good news is that there is a solution to that.
For example, most can do some light hiking in nature. You can train your mind and body to be accustomed to stillness by striving to be in the moment while you are walking there. So instead of bringing the chatter of daily life with you, regardless if that chatter is internal or external, you aim to be in the present moment, perceiving nature around you with your five senses. If you catch yourself drifting into thinking, return yourself back to the present moment, to that which you perceive with your senses. Everything else is redundant. And as you do that, you will notice that your thoughts will slow down and eventually quiet down more and more, and what will stay prominent is that which is referred to as the true self, the essence, the consciousness, the pure and objective awareness of life.
You don’t have to be walking all the time to be in that peaceful state. You can also sit down and listen to the sounds around you, observing what you see, feeling the air on your skin etc. This type of walking with pauses to sit down can be done even in parks, but being in nature has a more profound effect, and is especially useful for those who try to learn to still down the mind.
At forest bathing and contemplative walks there is a lot of activities that are interesting enough to keep us focused, whilst in their core they are continuously bringing to surface and strengthening that essence of awareness that we are. Most of those activities has to do with exploring the five senses by being more conscious of them, as well as accessing inner qualities such as intelligence and compassion. Through these and through the individual walks in nature, one learns to be more in tune with the harmony of nature, one begins to perceive deeper into oneself and into nature, and thus prepares oneself for meditation.
Hrvoje, January 2022.